Saturday 3 August 2013

Govt plans to develop sub-$100 smartphones in India

After dabbling in low-cost tablets briefly, albeit with little success, the government now seems to have taken a fancy to cheap smartphones.

Times of India reports that the government is toying with the idea of developing and selling sub-$100 smartphones to boost broadband penetration. The website got a whiff of the government’s plans from a top telecom department official, whom it did not name.

Elaborating further, the official said that affordability of smartphones was proving to be a major hurdle in the way of the government’s broadband penetration plans. To that end, it is now looking to get popular handset makers to produce affordable, yet advanced smartphones on a large scale for Indian customers. These smartphones will come pre-loaded with the latest entertainment apps and will also support mobile banking, telemedicine, education and farming apps like e-krishi.

"A fully-functional smartphone is no longer an object of desire but an instrument of empowerment," the report quoted the official as saying.

The plan is still in a very nascent stage and was only brought up on July 29 during the first meeting of the joint working group on broadband. Nevertheless, plans to introduce these cheap, locally-made smartphones form an important part of the government’s ambitious plan to evolve a broadband ecosystem in the country.

Kiran Karnik, who heads the Confederations of India's Industry's telecom advisory cell, said: "A sub-$100 smartphone can be a major broadband driver, especially since large scale penetration will have to be propelled by mobile phones.”

While in concept the plan to introduce affordable, advanced smartphones to the Indian market seems exciting, it would be truly early now to comment on how things would shape up in the future.

The government’s plan to introduce budget tablets for the have-nots did not receive the kind of response that its makers would have expected; hence only time will tell the fate of this one. 

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